The J. Paul Getty Museum

Head of a Ptolemy

Object Details


Head of a Ptolemy






Alexandria, Egypt (Place Created)


2nd century B.C.



Object Number:



33.8 × 18.7 × 17.5 cm (13 5/16 × 7 3/8 × 6 7/8 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Stefan Hornak

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Object Description

The head is approximately life-size and is preserved with a small bust for insertion into a statue. Some drapery is preserved at the left shoulder and there is a square dowel hole on the underside of the bust. The head turns and leans to its left. Part of lower lip, much of the nose, and a lock of hair over the forehead are broken off. The eyes and upper lip also sustain some damage. The rest of the head is quite well preserved, with much of the surface only lightly chipped and unweathered. The back of the head and hair are missing and would have been added in stucco. Diagonal grooves are cut into the back of the head and the underside of the bust. The hair around the forehead is mostly an unarticulated mass with some ill-defined locks at the hairline, where it is cut short and square across the forehead. The beard is executed in rough, but clearly articulated polygonal lumps and forms a thick layer around the underside of jaw and chin. The eyes are rather crudely executed with poorly articulated lower lids. Many of the facial features consist of sharp, simple lines. The ears are only roughly worked. There is evidence of secondary carving on part of the neck.

- 1979

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's, London, December 4, 1979, lot 112.]

- 1983

Stefan Hornak (Simi Valley, California), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.

Fusion: Greco-Roman Influences in the Ancient East (June 4 to July 1, 1985)
  • Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California (Los Angeles), June 4 to July 1, 1985
Tyranny and Transformation in Roman Portraiture (September 16, 2000 to March 25, 2001)
  • Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University (Atlanta), September 16, 2000 to January 8, 2001
  • Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven), January 30 to March 25, 2001
When the Greeks Ruled Egypt (October 8, 2014 to January 4, 2015)
  • Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University (New York), October 8, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World (March 27 to September 9, 2018)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 27 to September 9, 2018

Sotheby Parke Bernet, London. Sale cat., December 4, 1979, lot 112.

Jucker, Hans. "Marmorportaets aus dem roemischen Aegyten," Das roemisch-byzantinische Aegypten. Akten des internationlen Symposions, Sepetmber 26-30, 1978, in Trier. Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1983, pp. 140-41; p;. 6, 1-2 (at the time, on the Swiss market).

"Acquisitions/1983." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), p. 236, no. 16.

Smith, R.R.R. "Three Hellenistic Rulers at the Getty." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), pp. 58-78, pp. 70-73, figs. 6a-d.

Smith, R. R. R. Hellenistic Royal Portraits (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 167, cat. no. 59; pl. 40, 1-2.

Smith, R. R. R. Hellenistic Sculpture: A Handbook (London: Thames and Hudson, 1991), p. 209, ill. fig. 243.

Antonaccio, C. M. "Style, Reuse, and Context in a Roman Portrait at Princeton," Archaeologischer Anzeiger 3 (1992), 414-452, pp. 444-45.

Evers, Cécile. "Un Ptolémée à Mariemont," Cahiers de Mariemont 27 (1996), pp. 15-19; figs. 9, 11-12.

Varner, Eric R., ed. From Caligula to Constantine. Tyranny and Transformation in Roman Portraiture. Exh. cat., Michael C. Carlos Museum, September 16, 2000-January 7, 2001; Yale University Art Gallery, January 31-March 25, 2001. Atlanta: 2000, pp. 92-95, cat. no. 3.

Ashton, Sally-Ann. Ptolemaic royal sculpture from Egypt : the interaction between Greek and Egyptian traditions (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2001), p. 56, ill.

Varner, Eric R. Mutilation and Transformation. Damnatio Memoriae and Roman Imperial Portraiture (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2004), p. 16, fig. 1.

Prusac, Marina. From Face to Face. Recarving of Roman Portraits and the Late-Antique Portrait Arts. Monumenta Graeca et Romana 18 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011), p. 131, no. 2.

Casagrande-Kim, Roberta, ed., When the Greeks ruled Egypt. From Alexander to Cleopatra, exh. cat. (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014), p. 60, fig. 4-2, checlist no. 64.

Spier, Jeffrey, et al., eds. Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World, exh. cat.  (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018), pp. 177, 180, no. 112, ill., entry by Jeffrey Spier.